Review of New Balance MT101 Trail Running Shoes
Posted on May 16 2011
If I had to total the number of hours that I’ve spent wearing each of the running shoes in my collection over the past 6 months, I’m pretty sure that the New Balance MT101 would come out on top by a fairly wide margin (note: this shoe was a personal purchase). The reason is quite simple: this is quite possibly one of the most comfortable shoes that I own. In fact, if I had to choose the single shoe that comes closest to being a perfect fit for my foot, this would probably be among the top 3. For this reason, I wear these shoes all the time, both on the run and out and about (including to the office and while teaching on occasion).
As evidence for their comfort, I actually had my 66 year old mother try my pair on one time, and she liked them so much she bought a pair for herself. My mom is not a runner, but she now wears them all the time and claims that they are one of the most comfortable shoes that she has ever worn (she’s sporting them in the image to the right!). There may be a new market sector here that New Balance should start to explore
The MT101 comes in two colorways for men – green and black. I have the green version, and they are a fine looking shoe. They are subdued enough that I can wear them to work without standing out too much, but retain enough spark to keep them from being boring. They are way flashier than anything I have ever seen my mother wear before, but I have to say that I love the fact that I’ve gotten my mom into a pair of ultralight trail shoes! She now owns a pair of the Minimus Road shoes as well, and is looking into getting a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves – I may have found the roots of my shoe addiction (and it appears I have passed it on to my daughter!).
I really can’t say enough positive things about the MT101. The upper is very minimal – mostly just mesh/fabric with a few overlays. There is no plastic heel counter, and the heel/ankle cuff is unique in that it is made of soft EVA foam rather than cushioned fabric (see photos above and below). Because the EVA stretches a bit, the MT101 actually functions like a slip on for me – I don’t need to tie or untie it when taking it on or off, but it stays in place perfectly on my foot. I‘m a big fan of this design element.
The forefoot of the MT101 is plenty roomy for me, and there is virtually zero arch support (maybe just a tiny lip at most). The insole is thin and is glued in place, and the entire upper + interior combo make this shoe incredibly comfortable on my feet. Love it.
The only major criticism I have of the MT101 is that the heel is higher than I would like it to be. Running Warehouse lists the differential at 26 mm heel, 16 mm forefoot, but to be honest I think that is an overestimate. It doesn’t feel 10mm drop either while walking or running, and measuring with my own calipers I’m hard pressed to measure it at anything more than 7-8 mm heel-forefoot drop. Even still, this is more than I typically like to run in, and it seems to have caused me some issues when attempting to do speedwork in them (ankle pain under the lateral malleolus on one side, probably peroneal tendons, but doesn’t seem to happen when running more slowly). The cushion in the heel is also pretty soft, which contrasts with the much firmer feel of the forefoot, probably due to the presence of a rock plate underneath the outsole.
The outsole (see photo below) of the MT101 is reasonably grippy, and the lugs are low and flat enough that this shoe also works pretty well on roads. In terms of weight, my size 10’s come in at just about 7.8 oz – very light for a trail shoe.
The New Balance MT101’s were a work horse for me out on the roads this past winter, allowing me to run safely on the snow and ice that I had to deal with without letup for about 3 straight months – traction was more than ample. I’ve also done a decent amount of road running in these shoes, and they handle asphalt just fine – it’s a pretty versatile shoe. Their light weight and fairly low drop allowed me to run comfortably in almost all conditions, though removing about half of the heel height would have made the experience more to my taste.
Rumor has it that the forthcoming MT110 will be 4mm drop – here’s a quote about the 110 from Anton Krupicka’s blog: “It is built on the Minimus last, though, meaning a broad forefoot and a 4mm drop with 7mm/11mm forefoot/rearfoot heights. Best trail shoe I’ve ever worn, period.” Based on my experience with the MT101, I’m inclined to believe him. Drop the heel height in the MT101, and you have one incredibly fine trail shoe.
One thing I’d like to also point out about the MT101 is that in a market where so-called minimalist shoes demand premium prices, this shoe is an undeniable bargain. They sell for $59.99 at Running Warehouse.
Lastly, my wish about having a lower heeled version of the MT101 just recently came true. My friend Tuck from the Yelling Stop blog just sent me a pair of MT101’s that are true zero drop. He took them to a cobbler to do the job, and he did some fine work (you can see how Tuck zeroed off his New Balance MT100’s as well here). Given that Tuck prefers as little cushion as possible in his shoes, he sent his cobbled MT101’s along to me, and I’m looking forward to taking them out for a spin (would have already, but have been sidelined this week by a nasty stomach bug). I did wear them around much of the day yesterday, and the now flat sole combined with the rock plate in the forefoot gives them an almost negative drop feel. Stay tuned for more on these (including photos)!
And yes, those were my MT101’s on my feet in the picture of me from the June 2011 issue of Runner’s World